Holy Rule for Apr. 21
Prayers, please, for the following:
Richard, fell and broke some ribs and his hand, blackeye, cuts and bruises elsewhere, in a lot of pain.
Pat C., nearing death from brain cancer, for her happy death and for all who will mourn her.
Deo gratias, Jimmy got the job in North Carolina.
B and JS, they adjust to whatever befalls them, discernment and special intention.
Bev and Alex, discernment and special intention.
Arjahn, health and conversions of life.
Deo gratias for past prayers answered
Amy, that God give her the job He wills for her.
Elaine, job interview on April 30.
Pat's Grandma, who suffered a stroke.
Prayers, please, for our Abbot Anselm, on his patronal feastday, graces and
blessings galore! Ad multos annos!!
Lord, help us all as You know
and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent,
praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 21, August 21, December 21
Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess
Once she has been constituted,
let the Abbess always bear in mind
what a burden she has undertaken
and to whom she will have to give an account of her stewardship,
and let her know that her duty is rather to profit her sisters
than to preside over them.
She must therefore be learned in the divine law,
that she may have a treasure of knowledge
from which to bring forth new things and old.
She must be chaste, sober and merciful.
Let her exalt mercy above judgment,
that she herself may obtain mercy.
She should hate vices;
she should love the sisterhood.
In administering correction
she should act prudently and not go to excess,
lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust
she break the vessel.
Let her keep her own frailty ever before her eyes
and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.
By this we do not mean that she should allow vices to grow;
on the contrary, as we have already said,
she should eradicate them prudently and with charity,
in the way which may seem best in each case.
Let her study rather to be loved than to be feared.
Let her not be excitable and worried,
nor exacting and headstrong,
nor jealous and over-suspicious;
for then she is never at rest.
In her commands let her be prudent and considerate;
and whether the work which she enjoins
concerns God or the world,
let her be discreet and moderate,
bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said,
"If I cause my flocks to be overdriven,
they will all die in one day."
Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion,
the mother of virtues,
let her so temper all things
that the strong may have something to strive after,
and the weak may not fall back in dismay.
And especially let her keep this Rule in all its details,
so that after a good ministry
she may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard
who gave the fellow-servants wheat in due season:
"Indeed, I tell you, he will set that one over all his goods" (Matt.
"To fail the law in one respect is to fail it in all."
Those are harsh and terrifying terms, but if one examines the Letter
of St. James, from which the principle comes, the
Holy Spirit has left no doubt about this one...
One cannot keep all the law faithfully while grievously sinning
against one portion of it. The law, any law is a whole. It does not
admit of fragmentation. Granted, the people following any law are
flawed subjectively and then a whole set of other considerations must
come into play. But the law is a whole.
View even just this chapter through that lens of wholeness, let alone
the entire Holy Rule, and you will quickly come to the conclusion
that its fulfillment is beyond human capability. And you will be
quite right. It is. You cannot do this stuff without grace. Lots of
it. Impossible otherwise.
Hence, ardent prayers for all in authority of any kind, religious or secular,
ought to be a lifelong, daily habit. Their task is not easy. They need our
prayers very much, and it is the least service of thanks we can render them
for their ministry to us, a ministry St. Paul tells us was given them by God.
Check out the Abbess. No human person can administer that kind of
authority without a great deal of prayer and a great deal of help
from God. No one at all can be this wise or balanced or loving or
moderate on their own lights. That's far too high an order for
natural virtue alone. A lot of that prayer must come from others, too,
so always, always pray for your Abbot, for all abbots, for all in authority.
Hence, it should come as no great shock that people in authority fail
this standard right and left, all the time. I know in murmuring
circles it is always treated as if it were news that an Abbot could
be that limited, but it really isn't at all. To even half-way clever
students, this should be a real no-brainer. It is the usual human
condition of people in power to be imperfect: bosses, abbots,
parents, spouses, the whole lot. In fact, that is the usual condition
of all humanity and especially the murmurers!
Was the person in charge mean to many for the sake of one? There
might be a reckoning for that. One can also cause the flock to be
overdriven simply by doing nothing in a given instance, or not doing
enough. There might be a reckoning for that, in fact, St. Benedict
promises us there will be and not a light one, either.
Dare we HOPE that such retribution will be forthcoming, that exacting
justice will be done, to Abbots, to anyone in authority, to anyone who
ticks us off? No way, not unless we want it for ourselves, too! Jesus
gave us that standard in the Our Father: we ask God to use our own
standards of forgiveness for others in forgiving us. Mercy, folks, always
mercy and to all!
We must deal with God's mercy in this life or we shall deal with His justice in
the next. May God spare us ALL from exact justice. Not a single one of us could
it. None of us could endure getting what we truly deserve. That is why mercy
is God's greatest attribute and why it is paramount. I know with all my heart
the Christ's Divine Mercy is my only hope- and it is a very sure hope!! His
loving kindness to us all is absolutely reliable in the infinite extreme.
The awful thing about authority is that sometimes, even when one gets
it right, one can get clobbered. There are also people who have left
because the Abbot was right. Try to remember that. If you're in
authority, be prepared to weather that, if you're not, try to help
those who must endure it for good reasons which they cannot reveal.
The key to this perplexing puzzle is the radically flawed human
weakness of both those in authority and those under it. We all
stumble together, half-blind, halt and lame, in an largely unlighted
tunnel to God. God alone at the end of that tunnel is the Light.
Prayer and grace offer us flashes on the way and we need them badly,
but any level of honest surprise at the limitations of such humanity
is really not the mark of a terribly observant mind.
Now for the clincher: this is not just a model for Abbots, but for
all of us with any authority, in fact, for all of us period. This is
the way Benedictines should treat others, seniors, juniors, all
people. This Christ-like attitude ought to pervade every parent,
teacher, boss, nurse and grocery clerk, all of us.
Now THAT, is a REALLY tall order! Sure is! You can only do it
with grace, with prayer and God's all-merciful help.
Love and prayers,
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Prayers, please, for the following, and for all their families and all who take care of them:
Barbara, dementia worsening, major meltdown on Friday, and for her husband, Jim.
a member of Jane's family newly diagnosed with cancer.
Al. His vision is critical to his work. He had cataract surgery and now the lens that was implanted will have to be removed Monday and replaced with a new one. Doc says there is a high risk of a detached retina. Please pray that God will guide the surgeon's hands and for complete healing.
Denise, that she get her marriage blessed and return to the Sacraments.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
February 1, June 2, October 2
Chapter 7: On Humility
The fourth degree of humility
is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind
when in this obedience he meets with difficulties
and even any kind of injustice,
enduring all without growing weary or running away.
For the Scripture says,
"The one who perseveres to the end,
is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22);
"Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26:14)!
And to show how those who are faithful
ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord,
the Scripture says in the person of the suffering,
"For Your sake we are put to death all the day long;
we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter" (Ps. 43:22; Rom.
Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense,
they go on with joy to declare,
"But in all these trials we conquer,
through Him who has granted us His love" (Rom. 8:37).
Again, in another place the Scripture says,
"You have tested us, O God;
You have tried us a silver is tried, by fire;
You have brought us into a snare;
You have laid afflictions on our back" (Matt. 5:39-41).
And to show that we ought to be under a Superior,
it goes on to say,
"You have set men over our heads" (Ps. 65:12).
Moreover, by their patience
those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command
in adversities and injuries:
when struck on one cheek, they offer the other;
when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak;
when forced to go a mile, they go two;
with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26)
and bless those who curse them (1 Cor. 4:12).
Be careful how you read this fourth step of patience. It is an ideal,
presented in its most flawless form. It is not an unreachable goal, but neither
should we expect significant progress before noon today. It is our call and
our vocation, but it is a lifelong task.
The danger for schleps like me is that this step can give one an image
of a perfect, 1950's TV sitcom Mom: shirt dress, high heels and pearls as
everyday wear, cookies and milk always forthcoming in a kitchen as clean
as a surgical suite and never a hair out of place. Full make-up on rising
and wears hat and matching gloves to shop. PUHLEEEZE! Give me a break.
Real patience in action is not at all like that.
Patience in action is a fierce struggle. Never think that it's easy for
others and therefore something is wrong with you: it isn't easy
for anyone. One of the biggest flaws of the "I'm OK and you are
not..." school of ministry is that it makes people think exactly
this. "It's easy for her and there's something terribly wrong with
me." Neither is true.
The Rule and Scriptures were meant for strugglers. They were written
for real, average people, halt and lame, battle-scarred veterans like
you and me, for people who have weathered life, but barely. Hey,
there may be cookies and milk, but you'll probably have to get the
plate yourself and brush aside a LOT of blood, sweat and tears to
find one. Oh, and please drink the milk fast and take as much as you
can... the fridge broke today.
Patience is surely one of the most important fuels that perseverance
runs on, but don't be surprised if it often is not very high octane!
Neither should it surprise you if your engine is not a slant V-8, but
rather a very cheap lawnmower that has trouble starting. Patience
is ENDURANCE, not ease. It may, after years of struggle, confer a
great peace and serenity, but it rarely, if ever, feels like that in
the middle of things.
Brother Patrick Creamer, OSB, of Saint Leo Abbey in Florida, taught
me patience and perseverance. He was able to do so because he was so
transparent about his own struggles. Many others tried to tell me how
hard it was, but their lack of candor made me dismiss their warnings
as tokenism. It certainly didn't seem to be hard for them. I couldn't
believe them. Patrick, my late and beloved mentor, was so very different.
Patrick entered the monastery in 1954, when he was 40, after a long
career at sea. He missed being at sea so much (and for so long!) that
it magnified many of the every day crosses of monastic life. Abbot
Marion, who loved brothers and had a very tender spot for them, used
to send Patrick to the beach for a weekend occasionally, in years
when that sort of thing didn't often happen. Abbot Marion was wise enough
to know he'd lose Patrick if he didn't get a salt air fix now and then.
Even the beach trips were not enough alone. Patrick told me he was
tempted to leave every single day for ten years. Patrick, when I
lived with him, literally stayed packed with a hidden suitcase for
years and boasted of his ability to be gone in an hour. As a novice,
my heart used to be selfishly in my throat. I wanted him to go, if
that was what he was supposed to do, but I really didn't want to lose
I can also tell you that, during the worst
of those years, Patrick helped scores of folks who came to him, because a
transparently wounded person usually can. I can also tell you that
Brother Patrick finally decided to stay: when he was 83 or so!! What a
witness of hope that was to me, to others struggling like me.
Please, let us all be given patience. But when we get it, however
little at a time, let NONE of us be "perfect" TV Moms. Let us all be Patricks,
let us show others how terribly hard, yet doable it can be.
Patrick held forth from his infirmary room until his death
at two weeks short of 90. A steady stream of visitors never waned.
On the head of his bed and on the shaving mirror over his sink were
two small notes, written in his own inimitable hand: "Lord, let me
come to You." They broke my heart the first time I saw them. I still
didn't want to lose him. But I know how right he was and how richly he
deserves that loving embrace for which he so patiently waited.
Love and prayers,
Jerome LEO, OSB (again and again you'll see why I took the second
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